Capt. (as I call her) and I connected through LinkedIn. The world needs to know how privileged we are to have women like her among us! A trailblazer who uses her social entrepreneurship skills to advance youth, women and girls in STEAME, as well as Aviation and Aerospace. STEAME stands for Science Technology Engineering Art’s Mathematics and Entrepreneurship. Here is our interview about her amazing journey;
Hi Capt., thank you very much for accepting to be our guest today
Hi Winnie, I am happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
I am very excited to learn about your journey as a pilot; please walk us through it
I am Captain Kgomotso Phatsima from Botswana. I am the Founder and President of Dare To Dream. I am among the first [few] female pilots to ever kiss the skies of Botswana with a military aircraft and the Author of “Born To Fly – The Story of a Female Military Pilot Rising in Africa”. I grew up from very humble beginnings in a small village called Ledumadumane; just a stone throw from Sir Seretse Khama International Airport. I used to walk barefoot to school and see airplanes fly over my mother’s house and from an early age I knew I was born to fly!
I finished my high school with flying colours because I had in mind where I wanted to go. Knowing where you are going is the first step of getting there. Fortunately, I was granted admission by a school in South Africa to study piloting but my family did not support my dream. They felt like it was too risky, a dream way out of the norm for a girl child. For them, my dream to fly airplanes was a dream too big for a girl from very humble beginnings. “We are too poor my child, during our times girl children could never fly airplanes” my mother lamented. “Just go to the university and become a teacher”, she suggested. My mother was already 45 years older than I was so, truly, we lived in completely different generations and saw things differently. Eventually, I opted for a truce and joined the University of Botswana to study Bachelor of Education in Science, specializing in Mathematics and Physics: to become an educator.
In April 2009, the Botswana Defence Force decided to enlist its first female military pilots, and the requirements was any basic degree in Science. That very degree that I was reluctant to pursue became a launching pad and a runway towards my flying career. This time, I knew nobody was going to stand in my way and I left home for the yearlong basic military training. My mother cried, she shed tears, perhaps because she feared for me, but I assured her that this was my dream, and I would pursue it with every fiber of my being. I simply told her, “this is the dream after my heart, this is what I want!”
The basic military training was one of a kind! The most painful yet challenging and exciting experience ever. I learned a lot of things from leadership to tactics, shooting a gun to working in a team, to martial arts and self-defence. Fast forward to now a decade down the line I have achieved a lot of things, and also lost a lot of things, the journey has been mesmerising, exciting, risky and challenging.
You have talked about challenges along this journey. What has been your hardest point?
This wasn’t only challenging, it was sad too. I lost the woman who raised me, I lost my mother! l lost my best friend.
Wow! My condolences! That must have been very hard! How did you fight your way through such a time?
Every time I felt too exhausted to carry on, too spent to move on, I would look up at an airplane flying above and feel this rush of energy surge through my body. And this rush quickened me to run faster, if I was shooting, I would shoot with more precision enthusiasm and passion. The airplanes flying-by reminded me of one thing; if I worked harder, through the pain and the fatigue, I would achieve my dream.
Let’s talk about your prestigious moments of recognition, awards and achievements
I have been privileged to experience some of these along the way on this journey called life.
I love learning, and I have been a lot of that. Aside being a military pilot, I have a Master of Science degree in Strategic Management from the University of Derby with a focus on Aviation Safety. I also have a Postgraduate certificate in Enterprise Risk Management as well as a certificate in Finance for Non Finance Managers from Botswana Accountancy College. I am a certified and qualified trainer by Botswana Qualifications Authority among others. I have a Commercial Pilot License from the Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana.
In April 2019 I resigned from the army; I had been in the army for a good ten years, and I brought my military career to a successful end. I am now fully focused on my business and the foundation. Because of the work I do, I won the Botswana Youth Awards Best Female of the Year Award 2017. I have also been selected by the Obama Foundation as one of the exceptional emerging young brilliant minds changing the narrative of our communities, our countries and the African Continent. I have been honoured by Her Majesty the Queen as the British High Commission 80th Commonwealth Point of Light Award Winner. I am an alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program – Leadership Tour of the United States of America.
I have also had some amazing features, for example, my story covered by BBC and CNN. Those were amazing times! This same work made me a finalist for the prestigious Falling Walls Science Breakthroughs of the Year 2021 in the category of Future Learning. I didn’t win but the feeling of being among finalists pushed my ambition even further. What I do actually matters!
What specifically inspired your passion to bring aviation closer to the younger generation?
When I was growing up in the village I never had the opportunity to sit down with a pilot nor see the inside of a flying machine until I had the opportunity to fly it. After qualifying as one of the first female Military Pilots in Botswana Defence Force, l started Dare To Dream to inspire the next generation more especially girls and those who grew up in the village like me. I wanted to give them a chance I never had. At Dare to Dream, we use the power of flight to ignite dreams, to celebrate passion and give the upcoming generation a sense of purpose in their education.
What is your favourite quote?
My favourite quote is one from the most amazing African legend of all time; “Education is the engine of personal development and growth. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine-worker can become the head of mines, that the child of a farm-worker can become a president of a great nation.” ~ Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
Lastly, what’s your encouragement to young girls who want to join STEM?
To any girl out there, I would say Dare to Dream! Dare to be inspired by our story! Dare to be the difference! Dare to be the change you want to see in the world!
Thank you Capt., for taking time to speak with me. I truly admire your work and wish we had more people like you out there. The future of Africa is truly bright. Thank you very much for having a strong African spirit.